Oil-Free Vegan Pesto

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Need to whip-up a quick weeknight meal?

walnuts, zucchini slices, leaves, and lemon half on a cutting boardIt doesn’t get much easier than this raw, vegan pesto sauce.

Simply throw everything into a food processor or blender, and in less than 5 minutes, you’ve got a delicious sauce on your hands–> perfect for serving over your favorite noodles or as a quick veggie dip!

Oil-Free Vegan Pesto
makes about 1 1/2 cups


1 cup diced zucchini
1 handful fresh basil leaves (about 3/4 oz.)
4 garlic cloves (I love garlic, but feel free to use less)
½ cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste


Throw all of the ingredients to a food processor or blender, and blend away!

mixing zucchini chunks, walnuts, and basil in a blenderI like my pesto smooth and creamy, so I used my Vitamix for a super-quick sauce– but if you prefer a chunkier texture, simply pulse it in a food processor until evenly broken down.

Oil free vegan pesto on noodles
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5 from 3 votes

Vegan Oil-Free Pesto

This pesto recipe is oil-free and dairy-free, with plenty of bright flavor. It can be whipped together in minutes and is delicious over zucchini "noodles" or traditional pasta. 
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword healthy, paleo, pasta, pesto, vegan
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 71kcal


  • 1 cup zucchini , diced
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves (about 3/4 oz.)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


  • To prepare the pesto sauce, simply combine the zucchini, basil, garlic, walnuts, water, lemon juice, and salt in a small food processor or blender. Adjust any seasoning to taste and serve immediately over your favorite veggies or pasta.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. 


Calories: 71kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Sodium: 196mg | Potassium: 104mg | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 6.3mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Per Serving: Calories: 71, Fat: 6g, Carbohydrates: 2g, Fiber: 0g, Protein: 1g

*Note: I added plenty of salt to this pesto sauce (a 1/2 teaspoon) because the flavor will be further diluted when eaten with raw or cooked vegetables. However, if you’re serving the pesto over a bed of salty pasta, or with cheese, you may want to reduce the salt content of the sauce to keep your final dish balanced.

To make your weekday meals even easier, try this tip–> freeze your sauce into ice cube trays, for an easily portioned meal!

pouring pesto sauce into an ice cube trayThese cubes should last for months in the freezer, so you’ll have an easy-to-prepare dinner at your fingertips!


These pesto cubes have made Austin’s dinners SO EASY to prepare lately. I simply grab 4 frozen cubes, and saute them with fresh veggies and a bag of rinsed Miracle Noodles.

spaghetti squash noodles in a bowl with pesto and tomato slices on topSometimes I add chopped, pre-roasted chicken, too, completely ruining the whole “vegan” factor… but, oh well.

You certainly can’t beat a delicious dinner that’s ready in 10 minutes!

Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite quick meal? Any time-saving tips to share?

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat

This sounds great Megan! I like pesto but get really turned off by ones that contain like 99% nuts, so I love that you put zucchini in as well. My favourite quick meals as of late have been veggies (I’ve been buying the frozen kind because they’re actually cheaper than fresh), in homemade marinara sauce with fish, like basa or cod. Something about nice warm cooked tomato sauce is so comforting in winter!


I love this recipe!!! Have you heard of Dorot herb cubes? The idea of freezing these reminds me of the Dorot herbs-they are at Whole Foods…I can’t wait to give this recipe a go! Have a great day!


    I’ve never heard of those! Herbs in a cube sound very convenient, though– I’ll keep my eye out for them next time!


This is a perfect recipe for me today! This is exactly what I have left in my fridge – and I have been wanting to make some pesto to freeze! Thanks!


YUM! I love the idea of freezing the batch into cubes in the ice tray. That’s perfect for a single gal like me who is always cooking for one! I’m definitely going to do this. Thanks! 🙂


    I’m freezing ALL of my sauces into ice cube trays now– it makes it so easy to prepare single-portion meals! Hope you enjoy it, too! 🙂

Beth @ Tasty Yummies

This looks amazing! I was bumming out a little bit the other day since I removed dairy from my diet nearly a month and a half ago and I remembered that pesto just wouldn’t be the same! This pesto looks much better than traditional pesto loaded with cheese. I love the addition of zucchini!

Vicky (Sweet and Healthy Living)

This recipe looks great! I don’t use oil, so this is perfect!


Made this last night with the intention of freezing some for later use but what little there was left ended up getting “finger spooned”. Love the addition of zucchini! Poured it over zucchini noodles and it was rich and delicious. Thanks!!


Thanks for the reminder about the ice cube tray freezing trick! I made this pesto with a couple differences. I didn’t have zucchini in the house, so I added 1 full cup of shelled edamame, and 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast. I also toasted the walnuts first. The result was a creamy, rich tasting and really delicious no-oil pesto!!!


I made some of this tonight. I was looking to use up some of my basil before it freezes tonight. I made the first batch with the walnuts as listed. It was good but my daughter is allergic to walnuts and I was out of them . So I made the second batch with some almonds in their place. I think it is even better than the walnut batch. I put some on some tofu shiratke noodles for dinner. It was really good. I will cover the basil again tonight so I can make another batch tomorrow. I need to go back to the store. I am out of nuts and lemons. This will be a good quick dish all winter long. I look forward finding different uses for it all winter.


Just made this. It was super easy to make. I used two large cloves of garlic and it was a bit too spicy so i just cooked the pesto a bit and the garlic flavor mellowed out. It was amazing and im so glad i now have a pesto recipe without oil!! Thanks!!


this was a great quick meal (served over raw zucchini noodles) for me and the wife, thanks!

Kathryne K.

Crazy idea on the ice cubes! (Crazy GOOD!) 😀


What else could I put this sauce on, other than the noodles?

    Vanessa Hill Ritthaler

    Pesto sauce is a great sandwich spread, or on steamed or roasted veggies, or just about anything!


This pesto is absolutely amazing!

I adore it because it’s oil free and dairy free (as most pestos are not). Hubby and I have made this sauce two times this week. LOL. First time we used almonds in place of walnuts. And it was SUPER yummy! Unbelievably good. Then we made it again tonight and used the rest of the almonds (1/4 cup) and then pecans (1/4) and it was maybe even better than the first time (but could also be because I put in more basil leaves this time around). It seems hard to mess this recipe up. It’s so easy and so delicious (with probably any nut you decide to use). LOVE it. This is the pesto I will be using from now on. Amazing! Thank you so much!


I made this pesto this afternoon. It is simply wonderful and soooo tasty. Will definitely be making this again and it’s so easy to do. Thanks so much for the recipe.

Gina Marie

Hi, I. Just left a comment on another one of your recipes and I just noticed this vegan pesto. I will have to give it a try. I’ve been using this one with boiled zucchini noodles, but I cut down the Evoo as it was a little much for my liking.

Just came across your website and you are totally motivating me to eat better so thank you. I definitely have to try this recipe. If I may,I’d love to share a favorite vegan pesto recipe with you that I found. I use it with my organically grown NJ garden zucchini. I just peel the zucchini in thick strips and boil in water for one minute. It’s nice to see eating healthy can taste really good and I never realized how good nutritional yeast can be in place of cheese. Enjoy and be well.
Vegan Pesto
1/3 cup pine nuts ( toasted I toaster oven or on the skillet)
2/3 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients in a food processor


the recipe sounds amazing! The Miracle Noodles though? notsomuch… I just read the ingredients list, and calcium hydroxide is poisonous and carcinogenic… 🙁 http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/calcium-hydroxide.html

felt wrong not to share <3


I don’t have lemon right now! Do you think lime would be okay or do you think I should leave it out?


Wow, is this ever delicious! We just made this for dinner and used spinach leaves instead of basil. Fantastic. Served it over spaghetti squash and extra walnuts. We licked the food processor and our plates clean. Even baby liked it! Thank you so very much!


Hey Megan!
Thank you so much for the awesome recipes, I am a college kid trying to find my way into a healthy diet and your recipes get me so excited for this new life style! I have been trying a new one every night and so far they have all been AWESOME! Just a quick question, out of your broccoli, zucchini, and avocado pesto sauces you have posted, which one is your favorite? I would love to make one in the coming days, but I am having a hard time deciding which one to buy the ingredients for!
Thanks and keep up the inspirational work, can’t wait to see the cookbook! 🙂


    My favorite is this one, but that may just be because I’ve made it the most recently. 🙂


This recipe is amazing! I’ve had it for supper many times, but I have a quick question. Do you know of any good alternatives to using zuccini? When I moved in with my roommate I had this dish less and less because we split groceries/dinner and she is allergic to zuccini. Any help would be super appreciated 🙂


    I have a feeling nearly any vegetable could work in this recipe, since it’s supposed to be green anyway! Maybe try some cooked broccoli or cauliflower?

Mary Hofbauer

Thank you. You are brilliant! I had never thought to substitute zucchini for oil. And it works. We all loved it with pasta and white beans. It tastes so good. 🙂

Rachel Druckenmiller

Thanks so much for this recipe, Megan! I put together a little video showing how to make it, and of course, linked out to your site for the full scoop! https://detoxinista.com/2012/02/oil-free-vegan-pesto. You’re the best!


Great easy recipe, and freezing them? Genius! ??


wow. just wow. poured over store bought gnocchi. licked the plate clean.


I made this 2 years ago for my husband when we were dating and we LOVED it. I just remembered it and am going to use this recipe with my vegan cooking class next month!


Thank you for the inspiration! 😀


Love this pesto! I just enjoyed it over some spiralized carrot noodles from Trader Joe’s, and the flavor was perfect.


Quick question about the walnuts- should they be soaked prior to blending? I was thinking they might break down easier but worried that they might absorb too much water and affect the flavor? Thanks in advance for your reply!
P.S. I own both your cookbooks and am so impressed with every recipe I try! It is one of the few clean eating cookbooks that doesn’t have difficult recipes, weird ingredients, or ridiculous portions per recipe (for instance, I enjoy that I can make a smoothie for one without leftovers). Keep up the great work!


Fantastic! And my kids loved it. Very quick and easy with regular ingredients. I served it over whole wheat pasta with steamed broccoli added.

Claire Amber

Thanks, so much, for posting thia! I used to make pesto with olive oil, but have recently realized that it causes inflammation, for me, so I’m trying to find alternatives. Same thing with parmesan cheese. I never would have thought to use zucchini, as the base, but that’s brilliant! I will definitely be giving this a try.

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